Previous slide
Next slide
Previous slide
Next slide

Don’t Just Sell, Engage: The Future of OOH Advertising in South Africa


Themebelihle Cheryl Dube

Senior Hybrid Strategist and Brand Enthusiast

Themebelihle Cheryl Dube

Themebelihle Cheryl Dube

26 February . 3 min read . Opinion

(Credit: Reveel)

In the broad spectrum of advertising platforms, Out-Of-Home (OOH) advertising in South Africa stands as a great example of adaptability and progression. Transitioning from the basic billboards dotting the highways between Johannesburg and Cape Town to today’s interactive digital displays that light up the streets and malls, OOH advertising has proven its ability to evolve, offering brands a limitless canvas.

South Africa’s adoption of technology in OOH advertising reflects its broader narrative of growth and transformation. Gone are the days of static billboards dominating South Africa’s streets. Today, the out-of-home (OOH) advertising landscape is alive with digital screens, interactive installations, and targeted messaging, painting a vibrant picture of a rapidly evolving industry. But is this progress simply cosmetic, or are there deeper changes brewing beneath the surface?

As a hybrid strategist, nothing excites me more than collaborating with creative partners and having the ability to bring to life, fun, interactive campaigns that integrate physical and digital elements to bring brand experiences to life.

These are my top trends shaping the OOH landscape and how brands can use them to engage.

The Digital Revolution – from bricks to pixel

Undoubtedly, the most prominent shift is the rise of digital out-of-home (DOOH). Captivating displays light up key intersections and shopping malls, showcasing dynamic content that adapts to the time of day, weather, and even the audience watching. Programmatic buying platforms further fuel this transformation, allowing advertisers to target specific demographics and track campaign performance with heightened precision.

Expanding Reach Beyond City Limits

Transit advertising, with its captive audience on buses and taxis, remains a powerful force, particularly in reaching the previously under-served township markets. Street furniture, from bus shelters to benches, provide valuable real estate for brands to engage with communities in their daily lives but key here is to ensure that the creative is striking enough to grab their attention. Further to this, the branding of properties such as spaza shops and car washes offer opportunities to gentrify these locations with a fresh coat of paint and possibly including opportunities for free Wi-Fi hotspots to further add value for consumers.  

Data Drives Decisions, Experience Ignites Engagement

Data is the new currency in the OOH realm. Advertisers are leveraging audience insights to craft focused messages, ensuring their campaigns resonate with the right people at the right time. This shift towards personalisation is coupled with a growing emphasis on experiential OOH. Think interactive bus stops powered by augmented reality, or pop-up installations that invite consumers to physically engage with the brand. In today’s saturated media landscape, creating a memorable experience is key to standing out. Looking at some of the work being done by brands like KFC with their newest Braamfontein digital concept store, we can really start to see how much-loved brands can bring amazing experiences to mass audiences.

Challenges and Opportunities: A Balancing Act

However, this evolution isn’t without its problems. Economic uncertainty and budget constraints continue to pose challenges, while navigating the regulatory landscape can be a complex task. Standardising measurement practices and demonstrating the true return on investment for OOH campaigns remain ongoing battles. And of course, the ever-present concern about visual clutter and its impact on communities demands sensitive and responsible planning.

Yet, amidst these hurdles, opportunities abound. OOH’s unique ability to reach diverse audiences, particularly in areas with limited internet access, makes it a valuable tool for brands seeking wider reach. Mobile technology can further enhance targeting and personalise the experience for individual consumers. Integrating OOH seamlessly with other marketing channels creates a truly omnichannel experience, amplifying the message and driving results.

The Future is Interactive, Sustainable, and Socially Conscious

But the real game-changer lies in embracing innovation. Augmented reality promises to blur the lines between the physical and digital, while emerging technologies like facial recognition and gesture control can create truly immersive experiences. Sustainability is also taking center stage, with eco-friendly materials and energy-efficient displays gaining traction. Finally, brands are realising the power of using OOH for social good, addressing community concerns and driving positive change.

In conclusion, South Africa’s OOH landscape is far from static. It’s a dynamic space buzzing with innovation, data-driven insights, and a focus on both engagement and social impact. By embracing these trends and overcoming the challenges, the industry can truly paint a bright future, not just for brands, but for the communities it serves.

As a Hybrid Strategist, I have lead the strategy direction for various brands, with over twelve years of experience in marketing and media. Working with diverse and prestigious clients across various industries, such as Mondelez, BMW, TymeBank, Woolworths, Telkom, TotalEnergies, and Godrej to name a few.

My core competencies include developing and executing integrated marketing campaigns, advertising strategies, and social networking initiatives that deliver impactful and measurable results. I am passionate about building and communicating compelling brand stories that resonate with consumers and drive business growth. I am also a certified Management Accelerator Program (MAP) graduate from McKinsey & Company, which has enhanced my skills in leadership, innovation, and problem-solving.